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Change mindsets, deliver justice

There should not have been so many victims.

That’s one of the most glaring takeaways from the testimonies of Larry Nassar’s victims. The gymnastics doctor has admitted to sexually abusing young girls under the guise of medical treatment.

More than 150 victims offered statements at court hearings last week, and there are scores more doing the same this week. Nassar will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Nassar perpetrated his abuse for years, even after some victims were brave enough to come forward. Many were forced to see Nassar, even though they were uncomfortable with him or suspected what he was doing was wrong.

Too many organizations, and the people running them, ignored concerns and complaints in order to protect themselves. A police department in Michigan even failed to stop him in 2004 after a girl complained that Nassar removed her underwear and touched her genitals and breasts. Police concluded that what he did was a legitimate medical technique. Investigations in 2014 and 2015 also led to the same conclusion.

The desire to preserve the institution (whether it’s USA Gymnastics, a university or an entire sport) led to unthinkable decisions. If those who wielded power at those institutions had only put the safety of children above their own desire for self-preservation, how many victims could have avoided Nassar’s sick abuse?

There has been an accounting for many of those people. USA Gymnastics announced that every member of its board of directors has resigned, and Michigan State’s president and athletic director have resigned. But it’s not enough.

It will take more than a change in leadership to ensure this doesn’t happen again. It will take a change in this idea of “institution-first.”  It will also take a change in the idea that people in power, including doctors and coaches, can be blindly trusted.

We also have to re-condition ourselves to imagine that the unthinkable might be true. Too many parents could not face the reality that their daughter was being abused, so they dismissed the complaints or convinced themselves his “treatment” was medically necessary.

But parents are not to blame here. Only Nassar is. We can only hope that justice is swift and complete. His victims deserve nothing less.